Greg Biffle leads final Sprint Cup practice at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — With a glimmer of hope during a tough season, Greg Biffle paced the final practice session for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, posting a 197.929 mph in his No. 16 Ford.

Biffle made 28 laps, more than any of the other 37 drivers who participated in the second of two practices Friday. Speeds dropped significantly from the first session (which Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led as one of three to top 200 mph) as drivers focused on taking laps by themselves rather than drafting in large groups.

Biffle said he posted his fast lap by briefly running in a draft early in the session.

“It looks like we’re about top five in qualifying trim, so we’re excited about a top-10 starting spot,” said the Roush Fenway Racing driver, who is 21st in points with one top 10 — a 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500. “This is the first time we’ve been fastest in practice all year and have a decent qualifying speed.  That’s a little confidence-builder for us this weekend, but we would certainly like to find that kind of speed every week.  This is a little bit different because it’s restrictor plates.  These cars haven’t changed in four years.  It’s the same car, and we’re pretty decent at it.”

Saturday’s qualifying (which will take place at 1:15 p.m. ET) will mark the return of a mostly single-car format after group qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks prompted a chorus of groans from drivers and teams about its unfair nature.

“I’m really happy with the way they changed qualifying because it’s the speed of the car,” Biffle said. “It’s not who got the lucky lane or who got a draft or who laid back so far and got sucked up on a big run.  For this type of racing, we need to probably do this kind of qualifying.”

Results from Friday’s final practice:

1 Greg Biffle … 197.929 mph … 22 laps

2 Tony Stewart … 197.859 … 20 laps

3 Aric Almirola … 197.696 … 10 laps

4 Jimmie Johnson … 197.175 … 18 laps

5 Austin Dillon … 197.122 … 18 laps

6 Matt Kenseth … 196.839 … 18 laps

7 David Ragan … 196.669 … 14 laps

8 Sam Hornish Jr. … 194.603 … 11 laps

9 Casey Mears … 194.456 … 8 laps

10 Brian Scott … 193.881 … 8 laps

11 Ryan Blaney … 193.541 … 14 laps

12 Jeff Gordon … 193.322 … 2 laps

13 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 193.135 … 13 laps

14 Brad Keselowski … 192.858 … 17 laps

15 Jamie McMurray … 192.796 … 7 laps

16 Kevin Harvick … 192.719 … 11 laps

17 Kyle Larson … 192.502 … 8 laps

18 Danica Patrick … 192.440 … 14 laps

19 Kurt Busch … 192.085 … 17 laps

20 Paul Menard … 192.027 … 10 laps

21 Trevor Bayne … 191.965 … 8 laps

22 Joey Logano … 191.631 … 7 laps

23 Landon Cassill … 191.290 … 5 laps

24 David Gilliland … 191.210 … 8 laps

25 Kasey Kahne … 190.974 … 2 laps

26 Chris Buescher … 190.666 … 8 laps

27 Michael Annett … 190.393 … 11 laps

28 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 190.249 … 13 laps

29 Cole Whitt … 190.196 … 5 laps

30 Michael McDowell … 190.008 … 8 laps

31 Justin Allgaier … 189.815 … 8 laps

32 Josh Wise … 189.597 … 8 laps

33 Bobby Labonte … 189.567 … 11 laps

34 Alex Bowman … 189.522 … 2 laps

35 Brendan Gaughan … 189.185 … 5 laps

36 Matt DiBenedetto … 189.081 … 5 laps

37 JJ Yeley … 188.500 … 5 laps

38 Jeb Burton … 187.335 … 5 laps

Best 10 consecutive laps average:

1 Greg Biffle … 195.312

2 Tony Stewart … 195.259

3 Matt Kenseth … 195.098

4 Austin Dillon … 195.051

5 Jimmie Johnson … 195.045

6 David Ragan … 182.432

7 Aric Almirola … 176.804